Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Honeybee Update

A lot can happen with bees in a year. There were some good things that happened, some not so good things that happened, and things that just worked out.

First the good news. All of my hives made it through the winter alive! Not one of the hives died due to starvation or queen failure. It was such a sense of accomplishment to have all the hives survive.

This past February brought us some very unusual weather. We had two weeks that were in the mid-80's and felt like the middle of summer. This got the bees going thinking that spring had spring and it was time to start raising some brood. Which they did. However, the weather had different ideas.

The first blast came March 5-6 with a snowstorm.

It was deep enough to shut down the bee hives. Like most snows in Virginia, they don't last too long, and it had all melted. Thinking that this time spring had spring, some front entrance feeders were put on the hives to give them a boost and encouragement to get going. Again, weather had different ideas.

March 26th another snowstorm came through. You can see from the photo above, that the bees had already started to take the syrup in the feeders before the snow came. The bees must have figured that someone was playing a joke on them. Unfortunately, the joke was on me.
Although it was snowy outside, the bees were hard at work in the hive. So much so, that once spring did spring, the hives were so jam packed that they felt there wasn't enough room in the hives for everyone. Someone needed to go. The old queens decided they would swarm on April 14th.

Going out to check the hives that Sunday afternoon, I saw the swarms sitting on my fence posts. Quickly running to the house and grabbing two hive bodies and some frames, I did the best I could to brush the swarms off the posts and into two hive bodies, thinking they were two separate swarms. Once I got most of the bees into each of the hive bodies, I could see the workers on the entrance fanning the air, signaling that this was their new home. After leaving the hive bodies alone for an hour, I came back and found all the bees in one hive body. Apparently it was one hive that landed in two places and they hadn't decided which post they were going to stay at. So now I had all the bees in one hive.
My new job was having me travel the next day for two days. An entrance feeder was stuck on the hive and I left on my trip. Two days later upon inspecting the hive, there were no bees. Apparently my hive body was not appealing enough to them to stick around. It was a major success of hiving the bees, following by such disappointment on them leaving on me.
May 2nd the Oldest Son was riding his motorcycle around the horse pasture. He came running in the house saying that a swarm of bees were on the ground on one of his berms on his track. Grabbing a hive body and frames, I went out trying to capture another swarm from my hives. This involved scooping the bees up in my hands and dropping them into the hive. This continue for quite a while, attempting to make sure I got the queen into the hive. I saw her on several occasions in the swarm, but then lost sight of her. Once I saw the bees fanning, I went inside and left the hive alone for an hour. Coming back out, all the bees had moved into the hive.
Again, my new job had me traveling again for two days. But this time I wasn't going to lose my bees. Once night time came, I put an entrance reducer on the hive, put a front entrance feeder on, and stuffed a couple small marshmallows in the entrance hole that was left.

I also placed a couple twigs across the entrance for when they did get out, they would have to reorient themselves to their new home, trying to make them feel like this would be their home. Coming back two days later, they had started to take the syrup, were drawing comb and had decided that the hive I provided wasn't too bad after all.

We got another dusting of snow in mid-May, which was very unusual. All my hives had swarmed and were working on building up population. I was able to put a honey super on each hive in case they did build up size and were able to make some extra honey. All the hives filled about half of a couple frames and drew some comb in a few more. Not enough to extract which was disappointing.
By the end of a wet summer with lots of growth, all the hives are strong. I fed back the little honey that had been created in the supers during the summer. Did a mite treatment the first week of September using Mite Away Quick Strips. The hives are looking strong and doing well during this last little bit of warmth.

I'm in a good position for next spring. I have realized that beekeeping doesn't take a lot of time, but the timing is important. If I had put the honey supers on the hives during that two weeks of warmth in February, they may not have swarmed and given me a good crop of honey. Lesson learned. I would rather be early to give them more room than late next spring.
The swarm hive that stayed around is the strongest of my hives and now has two full deep hive bodies full of brood and honey and pollen stores. The hives overall are in good shape. I now have four hives at home and still have one hive at Possum's garden.

Towards the end of summer I set up my camera by the hive one afternoon and did a time lapse sequence. Watch out for the Sasquatch filling up the far hive top feeder at around the 12 second mark.

The last couple days I have been putting dry pollen substitute out for the bees and they have been going crazy for it.  The other day they took a whole pie pan full of the pollen sub.  I'm hoping this means that the hive will be full of sugar (carbohydrates) and pollen or pollen sub (protein) for the winter.  That will make the hive strong when spring comes and it is time to start raising more bees to build up for the spring flow.

The bees were a bit sloppy in picking up the pollen sub.  You could see many of them coated in yellow powder heading back to the hive about 80 yards away.  All the motion of the bees in the bucket also made quite a bit of the pollen come out of the bucket and land in the garden.  I hope they clean that up quickly as I need to get my winter garden going.  And yes, I am way behind on that.

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